Whether you’ve found a piece of rural paradise to build on, or an inner-city commercial site to set up business, ensuring you uncover all the hidden environmental liabilities before signing on the dotted line is essential for long-term protection, risk management, and avoiding additional costs and time delays.

Often when we spy the perfect place and envision ourselves settled there, or watching our company grow, it’s hard to see beyond the surface – the property looks solid, the ground is firm, there aren’t any trees blocking the way, there are no funny smells, what could be wrong with it? However, it’s often what’s lying below the surface, or the past usage of a property that can come back to haunt new owners.

For instance, if you are buying in a rural setting, a bare section may appear only to have an area of bush, flat land and nothing else. However, it may there may be orchards next door that have resulted in the overspray of chemicals onto your land, potentially contaminating the soil.

Or, you may want to redevelop a site in an industrial area in town that could have history of commercial activities, resulting in land contamination that’s spread to neighbouring properties – potential trouble ahead!

Thus, buying property at face value can result in future woes, which is why safeguarding yourself prior to purchase is a must for greater peace-of-mind. When carrying out environmental due diligence services, including contaminated site investigations, it’s essential that all testing, analysing and investigating is orchestrated in accordance with full disclosure of the property’s historical use and your future intentions for use, to ensure you are getting the best investment value and can structure your purchase offer based on what that assessment reveals. For example, if contamination was found i.e. leached industrial chemicals or agricultural chemicals, you could negotiate a reduction in price. Knowing any ongoing property obligations before you take property onboard is essential too – i.e. you made need to build a bund to direct stormwater.

So, what sort of implications and costs can arise from environmental due diligence investigations? Common environmental revelations include:

  • Contamination clean-up of the property
  • Contamination clean-up of neighbouring properties
  • Tort liability – persons or property damage resulting from hazardous wastes on the property
  • Fines for violating environmental laws and permits
  • The uncovering of wetland or sensitive environmental conditions on the property.

No matter whether you are buying a property to redevelop, build on, or use as-is, knowing your potential costs and the full extent of the property’s compliance with environmental laws should be your first port of call. Therefore, enlisting an expert team of certified environmental practitioners to carry out the necessary due diligence is essential.
From initial site visit, to interviewing owners/occupants/government officials, to writing descriptive investigative reports that identify specific evidence of contamination, to soil testing – such as XRF analysis carried out by Lysaght technicians that provides instant results for heavy metal concentrations in soils – environmental due diligence experts aren’t just out to find problems, they’re there to help you understand more about the workings of your potential patch.